Zainul Abidin Rasheed (Right)
Zainul Abidin Rasheed (Right). Twitter

Singapore was not a sleepy fishing village, nor was it filled with lazy natives. It was always in hot pursuit for success, no matter what the conditions or situations were. The same spirit still thrives among Singaporeans and despite finding success in today's society, the people still search for excellence.

Former Minister of State Zainul Abidin Rasheed confirmed just that. The senior leader was speaking at Nanyang Technological University Bicentennial Conference (NTU), and in his speech said that five centuries before the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles in 1891, the Singaporean island was already a bustling trading centre called Temasek, and was open to business and to traders of all races and cultures.

Rasheed also stressed on the fact that right-wing nationalism and isolationist movements have popped up all across the world since a decade and cautioned that Singapore should never go that direction anytime in the future. He said the people of Singapore welcome Chinese, Indians, Eurasians and other immigrants and should continue doing the same always for the betterment of the island.

He said, Singaporeans should "not lose our heads when many are losing theirs - that takes some character. We do so not only because we are a young nation with a small population, but also because we truly believe in hospitability and appreciating the contribution of others."

The former leader added that public housing, which is a British legacy, is an area where Singapore has shown it can be adapt, learn and see the merits. "Our founding fathers saw the merit of public housing not merely as an obligation to our citizens, but also as a long-term tool for nation-building... it forges a common identity among people of different creeds."

The two-day conference at the NTU was attended by academics and policymakers and Rasheed said to the students that openness and connectivity are the core principles of Singapore's international engagements, for which all of them wholeheartedly agreed. Singapore is one of the sought-after destinations to study and work and provide a good quality of life to anyone who reaches its shores.